1940: USA’S ‘First Mod­ern Cen­sus’ re­leased

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS - Made­line Mulholland

OnApril 2, 2012 the United States gov­ern­ment, af­ter the lapse of 72 years of privacy pro­tec­tion, made the 1940 US cen­sus records ac­ces­si­ble to the public. Typ­i­cally cen­sus in­for­ma­tion is pro­tected through privacy laws de­signed to pre­vent an in­di­vid­ual’s per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from be­ing ac­ces­si­ble to the public while they are still alive. The re­lease of the 1940 cen­sus records al­lows full ac­cess to de­tailed in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing US de­mo­graph­ics and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing in­di­vid­u­als and fam­ily house­holds of that time. Ac­cord­ing to a 1988 poverty re­search project pub­lished by the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin, the 1940 cen­sus was re­ferred to as Amer­ica’s ‘first mod­ern cen­sus’. It was the first cen­sus to ask about in­come and it sought more de­tailed so­cial and eco­nomic in­for­ma­tion than those that pre­ceded it. It was also the first cen­sus to be de­signed by a pro­fes­sional and per­ma­nent staff, which in­cluded so­cial sci­en­tists. It con­tained a more de­tailed snap­shot of the typ­i­cal Amer­i­can house­hold than was pre­vi­ously avail­able in cen­sus re­ports, hence it was a good ref­er­ence for the study of preWWII Amer­ica’s de­mo­graph­ics and fi­nan­cial sta­tus as it con­tin­ued to strug­gle with the af­ter­math of the Great De­pres­sion.

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